At one time or another, we may have all uttered the phrase, “If I live to be 100…”. Well, Fulks Run resident, Trevillo “Bill” Miller, has achieved that goal! He is part of a club that not many gain entry to, celebrating his own centennial, and having seen and lived the changes the world has gone through in one hundred years. How many of us can recall gas being 20 cents a gallon!
Bill was born in Genoa, in April 1922, just a half mile from where he now lives. He weighed just 2 ½ pounds, born prematurely at 7 months, the doctor told his mother he didn’t know how long he would live. As his daughter, Linda, commented, “You sure fooled them!” The house he was born in is still standing.
Bill is the first born, and has 2 brothers, 1 sister. A brother 18 years younger, a sister 19 years younger, and his other brother died a few years ago at age 90. They all weighed more than he when they were born!
Bill attended the Genoa school in Fulks Run, and as was common at the time, only went through the 7th grade. When he got out of school, it was during the Roosevelt Depression era, he worked with his dad on the farm, then later a nearby saw mill, where he worked the steam engine. He would get there very early to get the steam engine running and ready for when the other workers showed up. When he got married in 1941, the year of Pearl Harbor, he was making 12 ½ cents an hour, $1.25 per day, maybe $30 a month! Bill was just 19. He had graduated from prepping the steam engine, but was still working at the saw mill. Bill soon met his wife, Ethel, who lived in Lairs Run, at church. They got married at the parsonage in Broadway.
Life was pretty rough back then, as he said “ A nickel went a long way!” They had gardens growing and canning their own produce, while living with his granddad.
No electricity, during the Roosevelt era, times were rough according to Bill. He recalls workers (probably the Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC, which was established during the Depression to revitalized impoverished areas. It gave jobs to a lot of young men) coming around building outdoor toilets- outhouses, since there was no indoor plumbing back then. Out houses and the pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog as toilet paper!
His father had an old Model T Ford, but there was rarely a car seen down the old dirt road where they lived. Later on, his father gave him that car.
Branneman’s had a grocery store at the crossroads, now long gone. He recalls buying supplies and then paying for it all at the end of the month. There also was a store on the hill, corner of Opie and Hopkins Gap, and Bill recalls another called Gert’s further down in the Gap on Hopkins Gap Rd. Sam Crider’s and another little store were also on Little Dry River. There were a lot of little groceries around in the early years, all gone now. Fulks Run now just has Fulks Run Grocery/Turner Ham and Mac’s Superette.
After the sawmill, Bill worked for Zigler’s orchard for a while through the war, spraying the trees and hauling apples and peaches. There was a cannery in Timberville, and when he hauled tomatoes there at night, he could hear the singing of German prisoners who worked there.
He also worked for the highway department for about 7 years driving a truck. Bill tells of having to plow the mountain back in Bergton with a co worker. The truck had chains on the wheels of an old 4 wheel drive Army truck, and the coworker didn’t think they would make it up the mountain. Bill told him they would have to make it up, there was no way he was going to be able to back the truck down the way they came. They made it to the top, and managed to plow down the mountain.
Although he wanted to join the Navy, Bill got a deferment from his employer. He had gone to Roanoke for the physical and passed. He kept getting 1A cards, and wondered why he wasn’t called. His employer had taken it to the Board of Appeals, saying he needed Bill, as he was the only young guy working for him! His boss said would have taken it to the President, before he would give Bill up! The longest place Bill worked was a sheet metal factory, retiring at age 62 as a foreman.
After retiring, he played a lot of golf. He was a member of a team, playing 2 or 3 times a week. He was proud of a hole in one he got one year. He also played softball for a time in Linville. There are trophies for bowling also, Bill was a member of the Ruritans bowling league. Bill and Ethel raised 4 children, two boys and two girls. He was an EMT for 14 years, starting in 1978.
Bill is the only remaining charter member of the Fulks Run Ruritan Club, started by Garnett Turner. The first Ruritan meeting was held at a local church, later at a school. The newly formed club was very active, with lawn parties originally held back where the Turner Ham ham house is now. Bill worked the barbques. He had to drop out of the club when he had to take care of his wife who had broken her hip. They were married for 78 years, Ethel passed away 3 years ago. Bill was a Miller, who married a Miller. His daughter Linda, was a Miller, who also married a Miller. The road they live on carries the family name!
Retirement allowed a bit of traveling in later years– Canada, Niagara Falls, Florida, Pigeon Forge, to name a few.
When the Millers bought their first house that he still lives in, there was a hundred foot chicken house there, and his father and he raised chickens for a while.
Celebrating the 100 year milestone, Bill was honored at his church, the Broadway Rescue Squad, the hospital where he graduated from pulmonary rehab, the Fulks Run Ruritan Club, and by family. He received 186 birthday cards for his card shower!
We can only hope, if we are lucky enough reach the age of 100, we will be as sharp as Bill Miller, who doesn’t look a day past 80!